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Morals and metaphysics

Penelope Fitzgerald is Jane Austen's nearest heir, but with a continental, metaphysical touch

i knew penelope fitzgerald-never well-for a long time. We taught together at Westminster Tutors in the 1960s, where the ferocious Miss Freeston created an atmosphere of eccentric precision. (She was later to appear in At Freddie’s, observed with judgment and affection.) My first real memory of Penelope was the mixture of irritation and curiosity with which she greeted my assertion that you couldn’t talk about “the protagonists” of a novel. “Why?” said Penelope, sharply. My mother told me, I said. She learned at Cambridge that in Greek tragedy there was one protagonist, and one deuteragonist. Of course, said Penelope. Exactness…

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